Archive for the ‘Mills’ Category

Stalinism in Eastern Europe

Monday, November 26th, 2007

The Romanian Embassy and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars invite you to a scholarly conference on Stalinism in Eastern Europe to be held November 29-30. The first day’s events will be at the Romanian Embassy (Sheridan Circle–a short walk from the Dupont Circle Metro) and the second at the WWIC (Federal Triangle Metro). This conference brings some of the most important scholars in Romanian and East European studies together in one place. You should feel free to attend either day or both.

The schedule for the event follows below.

Stalinism Revisited – the Establishment of Communist Regimes in East-Central Europe and the Dynamics of the Soviet Bloc (29-30th November, 2007 – Washington D.C., USA)

Conference Program:

29th November, 2007 –Embassy of Romania to United States of America (Washington D.C.)

9.00 am – 9.30 am
Welcome Address – Daniela Gitman = Chargé d’Affairs a.i, Embassy of Romania to United States

- Horia-Roman Patapievici = President of the Romanian Cultural Institute

Impending Train Wreck in the Balkans

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Former U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke (the man who brokered the Dayton Accords ending the war in Bosnia), has a column in today’s Washington Post in which he describes the impending train wreck in the Balkans.

According to Holbrooke, the nightmare scenario goes like this: The EU-US-Russia working group on Kosovo announces that it has failed to find a solution to the problem of Kosovo’s status. Following that announcement, the elected government of Kosovo will declare independence and be recognized by the US and the EU, but not by either Serbia or Russia. Egged on by the Russians, the Serbian region of Bosnia would then declare it’s independence, thereby abrogating the Dayton Accords and significantly increasing the likelihood of renewed war in Bosnia. And, just for good measure, the Russians will, Holbrooke asserts, use the situation in the Balkans as a precedent for encouraging two regions of the Republic of Georgia to declare their independence, possibly leading to more conflict there.

The losers in this scenario?

  1. Everyone in Bosnia regardless of nation, because none of the three nations of that state stand to gain from the renewal of the war there;
  2. Serbia, because no government in Belgrade can sit on the sidelines while Kosovo declares its independence and war breaks out again in Bosnia. Serbian military (or even logistical) intervention in any subsequent fighting will derail any hope that Serbs have of joining the EU in the next decade or two, leaving Serbia as the potential permanent pariah of Europe;
  3. The EU and the US, because eight years of peacemaking in Kosovo and twelve in Bosnia will have been derailed and NATO will once again be fighting in a war it wants no part of;
  4. The peoples of Georgia who will have to revisit the wars of the early 1990s that left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands as refugees.

The winners? That’s easier–Russia.

I wonder when the Serbs are going to figure out that Russian policy in the Balkans has never been about what is or isn’t good for the Serbs–not in the 19th century, not in the 20th century, and now not in the 21st century. Russian diplomats, whether in 1878, or in 1914, in 1941, or the 1990s, have blustered on about the kinship between the two “Slav brothers”, but when the rubber hit the road, the Russians have left the Serbs high and dry again and again and again.It’s a virtual guarantee that they will do so again in this case.

Romanian Cinema in D.C.

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

The Washington Post ran a very laudatory extended review of current Romanian cinema in yesterday’s edition. Among the many films praised by Philip Kennicott was 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days. This film, about a young woman’s harrowing experiences with an illegal abortion during the last throes of the Communist regime is described as the best film ever to deal with the sensitive and controversial issue of abortion.

Kennicott writes:

[The film] puts an abortion on screen–not just the extortionate brutality of the back-alley abortionist and the emotional exposure of young women with nowhere to turn, but the process, the tubes, the spread legs, the waiting, the aftermath. Watching it will leave you furious not with the characters for their moral choices, but with the poverty of American artistic life. This is a film we could never make, because we refuse to look at reality. Mungiu [the director] has courage, and the results are a film expansive enough to contain the emotional and intellectual confusion that haunts the issue.

I’d say that is (a) a pretty ringing endorsement of Romanian cinema and (b) a powerful indictment of American cinema.

A number of the films described in the piece will be shown around town in the coming weeks. I’ve also procured a copy of 12:08 East of Bucharest (mentioned favorably in the review) and it is in the JC Library media collection (not on reserve).

Spring Break in East Central Europe

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

The Center for Global Education has now posted up the basics about the spring break trip to Prague and Dresden that I’ll be running next semester. They don’t have a cost posted, but if I had to guess, I’d say it would be somewhere in the vicinity of $2,500, plus or minus $500. How’s that for a big range? I really don’t know what the final cost will be, since I have no input on that, so I’m really just speculating here.

I hope you’ll consider going along.

If The War Had Turned Out Differently

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

Here’s another Strange Map for you–this one an imagining of what Europe would have looked like if Germany had won the war.

And another one of the siege of Sarajevo.

Jedwabne massacre

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

Kraman: Reading Response #6, October 16, 2007

Jan T. Gross, Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. New York, NY: Penguin, 2002.


Forum on Jan Gross’s “Neighbors,” Slavic Review, Vol. 61, No. 3. (Autumn, 2002), pp. 453-489.

In his book, Neighbors, Jan T. Gross, Professor of Politics and European Studies at New York University, describes the massacre of the Jewish population of the small rural community of Jedwabne, Poland on July 10, 1941. Jedwabne, in the Białystok district of north central Poland, was occupied briefly by the Wehrmacht during the Polish-German War in October 1939, then turned over to the Soviet Army under the terms of the German –Soviet Non-Aggression Treaty of September 25, 1939. The Soviet Army occupied the Białystok district of Poland, including Jedwabne, for 21 months until June 22, 1941, when the Wehrmacht attacked the Soviet Union, and quickly reoccupied the district. In searching for documentation of the massacre, Gross examined the daily summary reports of the SS Einsatzgruppe B operating in the Białystok district in June-July 1941, but found no reported Einsatzkommando activities in or around Jedwabne on or about July 10, 1941. The sources that Gross was able to use relating to the massacre were a report by Szmul Wasersztajn in 1945; the record of the Łomża trials in 1949 and 1953; the Jedwabne Jews memorial book of 1980; and the Agnieszka Arnold interviews of 1998. The testimony of alleged perpetrators during court trials, rather than victims, provided the bulk of the documentation used by Gross to support his argument that, except for a few German military personnel who photographed the events of July 10th, resident Poles of Jedwabne and the surrounding area were wholly and solely responsible for the massacre of virtually all the Polish Jews in Jedwabne.

In his attempts to understand and explain the Jedwabne massacre, Gross did not use the results of the extensive research and psychological experiments of Philip G. Zimbardo, a social psychologist from Stanford University, on changes in human behavior. Zimbardo demonstrated with his Stanford Prison Experiment and other experiments that ordinary people can be easily transformed into perpetrators by the power of social situations that alter the mental representations and behavior of individuals, groups, and nations. To demonstrate this social phenomenon, Zimbardo used the example of Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men. In 1942, 500 elderly, untrained, and inexperienced family men from Hamburg, who were too old for regular military service, were drafted and assigned to the Wehrmacht’s Reserve Battalion 101 and served in Poland. After some initial reluctance by some members, this group of ordinary men systematically shot to death at point blank range death 38,000 Jews in a four-month period. This cannot be used to excuse or to rationalize the behavior of the Poles in Jedwabne, but it does warn that all of us may be capable of incredible and deadly cruelty in certain situations.

One cannot argue with the testimonies of the Polish participants in the massacre, but Gross’s conclusions seems to hold the entire Polish population of Jedwabne responsible for the massacre of all the Polish Jews. At the same time, he downplays or ignores any tacit or active SS participation in or responsibility for the massacre. Some of Gross’s generalities are unfair and inaccurate – and unhelpful — especially given the sensitivities of the Jewish and Polish communities in such matters. It is not clear what Gross’s motivations and objectives were in publishing such a slanted analysis.


Remembering Roy Rosenzweig

Friday, October 12th, 2007

Here is a link to my first attempt to put into words Roy’s impact on my life.

Which Came First?

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

Here is a link to a rather lengthy blog post by the filmmaker Erroll Morris about two of the most famous photographs of all time–The Valley of the Shadow of Death by Robert Fenton (from the Crimean War). Reading this post, you get a sense for just how painstaking it can be to nail down just one precise detail of your research and how different historians (and curators in this example) can hold diametrically opposite views on a subject like this. Thanks to Misha for pointing this one out to me!

When I accessed the post tonight, it already had more than 880 comments, which also gives you a sense for just how big the audience for a New York Times blog can be and how many people are interested in the history of photography.

Bärbel Bohley at the German Historical Institute

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

Yesterday, the former East German dissident and co-founder of the New Forum (Neues Forum) civic movement, Bärbel Bohley, spoke at the German Historical Institute down near Dupont Circle.

Yesterday was “reunification day” in German–the anniversary of the reunification of the German state in 1991. You might be tempted to think that on such a day Bohley’s lecture would be one that focused on the happiness most Germans felt at the reunification of their country after more than 45 years of separation. And you’d be wrong. Instead, Bohley’s talk was more about what went wrong in 1991 (and after) than on what went right.

When discussing the events of 1989 themselves, she was more sanguine. For instance, she said, “For me, it is not really about the collapse of a shriveled up skeleton in 1989. No, the main event was the uprising of the people…Political actions were determined by the protesters and the politicians could only follow.”

But once the victory was won, the troubles began. In particular Bohley regretted the fact that the West German political parties moved in right away and set up shop in East Germany, pushing aside the civic movement that she had helped found and, in her view, essentially destroying the brief moment of national unity that the civic movement had induced. “The promise of societal self-determination had failed,” she said, and “those who couldn’t adjust [to the new society] remained on the margins…Two decades on, many [East German] individuals have still not arrived in Germany.”

Her most damning criticism of the new order that was established in East Germany after reunification was that, for more than 40 years East Germans were powerless under the Communist regime, then for a brief moment in 1989 they were powerful again. But when the West German state rolled over the East German state, they were “powerless again.”

Bohley, who now works for the U.N. High Commissioner in Bosnia helping refugees with resettlement, did some comparing of the situations in Bosnia and Germany. Speaking primarily of Bosnia, she said, “For as long as the past determines the present and the future, there will be no peace in Bosnia.” She said, that many Bosnians have said to her, “So, this is democracy?” and that, “How often have I heard this same question in Poland, East Germany, Bosnia or Croatia?”

Unshredding the Past

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

Here’s a link to a very interesting article from the Economist about how technology is being used to “un-shred” the files of the East German Stasi. And they thought tearing up the documents would be sufficient!